While talking plant options for our garden at home, I looked at the three varieties of Amsonia growing around our offices. I use this plant in my designs predominately for the texture of the foliage, however the flower is a strong attraction in the garden in late spring. Amsonia is the perfect plant to showcase the subtle variation between the different varieties. The three varieties we grow are are Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, tabernaemontana, and hubrichtti.
All the varieties are great for use in a perennial garden since they grow in a good sized clumps, flower from mid-spring to early summer, have great dense foliage and with some varieites (like hubrichtti) that provide a beautiful golden fall color. Amsonia are great pollinators that require very little maintenance once established and are very tolerant to less than ideal soil. It should be noted that one amsonia variety is not always a substitute for another so its important to know the different between each. Below are the details on my favorite three varieties.
Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’
This cultivar is growing in a cluster at the edge of our gardens near a salvaged foundation stone. This species grows low, 1-1.5 feet tall and in a 1-1.5 foot cluster with very dense foliage that does a great job filling a border. It is low maintenance, deer proof and grows in full sun to part shade. We have been growing this cluster for about 5 years and has preformed well from day one. This cultivar has one of the best flowers of all the Amsonia and you can see by its beautiful blue color where it gets the name ‘Blue Ice’
This species of amsonia is one of the taller selections. This plant reaches 2-3 feet and with much longer stalks. We are growing tabernaemontana in two locations in our gardens, and due to the amount of sun each location gets the plants vary a bit in size from the sun to more of a shady area, but has adapted well to both locations. The flower is a pale / sky blue.
In our garden I designed a “river” A. hubrichtti in a 35ft long band snaking through our ever changing west perennial bed. Growing between 2-3 feet tall. I really like using this species for the extra fine foliage which is not often seen in the garden. It is great grown in mass and also as an individual specimen. This flower is the lightest in color of the three species almost white with a hint of blue.
Here is a comparison of the three species we are growing for a comparison. I have provided more detailed images to showcase the flowers and foliage shapes in images further below.
The color and petals varies from each variety. By viewing just the blooms you can see the subtle changes in each of the five petal shapes. (Left to right: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti) It is really interesting to see how A. tabernaemontana really is the combination of the deep blue of ‘Blue Ice’ and the white/greens of A. hubrichtti.
You can also see the variation in the foliage shapes between the varieties below. (Left to right: Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, A. tabernaemontana, A. hubrichtti)
All the photos from above were taken during the spring season (this or last week), but it helps to see the plants throughout the seasons. Below are two images of Amsonia hubrichtti from a clients home in June (green foliage) and October (golden color) to provide the seasonal progression of the plant.
Amsonia hubrichtti has to be one of the perennials with the best fall color. In October the foliage turns a bight gold / yellow. It is truly a major highlight of this species.
Let me know if you have any other questions on these varieties of amsonia.